MADISON - Western Michigan (10-3) rallied from a set down to post a 3-1 win (22-25, 25-17, 27-25, 25-15) over the University of South Florida (4-7) on the second day of the Wisconsin InnTowner Invitational Saturday night from the UW Fieldhouse. USF falls to 2-4 all-time against the Broncos, who entered the tournament with a 9-1 record.
Four different Bulls tallied double-digit digs in a well-rounded effort on the defensive side. Junior J’beria Davis paced USF with team high totals in kills (18) and blocks (4) along with 12 digs. Sophomore Kayla Walton registered 11 kills at a team-high hitting percentage of .292. The BIG EAST freshman of the week Valerie El Houssine narrowly missed a double-double performance with nine kills and 12 digs. Senior libero Janice Rivera and freshman Claudia Cabrera combined for 35 digs to anchor the defensive unit.
“We played great defense tonight,” head coach Claire Lessinger said. “Four players with double digit digs is quite impressive. We struggled to kill balls in transition and score points off our digs. Our biggest missed opportunity was in the third set. We were in control down the stretch and let it slip away with missed opportunities.”
Trailing 19-15 in the opening frame, USF received two clutch kills from Walton and Davis on consecutive plays to pull within two, 19-17. The Broncos faltered on their next four attacks, resulting in four straight USF points and a 21-19 lead. Following a kill by Western Michigan’s Ashley Turnage, the Broncos committed back-to-back errors as USF’s lead grew to 23-20. Rozier blasted a kill off the assist from junior setter Jessica Burghart to put the Bulls ahead 24-20. Turnage answered with another kill, but Western Michigan committed another error as USF claimed the first set, 25-21.
With the score knotted at 9-9 in the second set, Western Michigan strung together a 12-4 run in a stretch that featured eight kills. Each team traded points down the stretch as the Broncos secured the 25-17 win.
With the Bulls serving for match point in the pivotal third set at 25-24, Western Michigan’s Jessica Brown notched a kill to tie the score at 25-25. On the ensuing play, sophomore middle blocker Andrea Rodriguez Gomez committed an attack error. Western Michigan’s Ali Gossen earned the third set win with a kill on match point.
USF struggled to get things going in the fourth set. With the score tied at 9-9 again, Western Michigan notched a devastating 8-1 run to pull ahead 17-10. The Broncos used that run to eventually post a 25-15 win in the fourth set, accounting for the 3-1 final in the match.
USF will conclude a three-day, three-match road stretch against Northern Illinois Sunday at 2 p.m.